What It Actually Means To 'Hold Yourself Accountable'
Love & Relationships

What It Actually Means To 'Hold Yourself Accountable'

Listen, I don’t know if this is a vent, a creative intro, or what, but when I tell you that before I got my holistic life coaching certification, there were some other students up in there who were trying me…BIG TIME? Chile…CHILE.

It has always been my personal belief that there is an epidemic of individuals (including quite a few folks who check off the traits of narcissism in some pretty stellar ways) who work in mental health, who actually need to receive therapy before they actually start giving it. Shoot, I won’t name no names (there are too many of ‘em at this point, to be honest), yet a lot of them are yapping away on TikTok as we speak. Indeed, some people would rather take the ego boost from helping other people than do the — and please trust me when I say this — sometimes excruciating self-work that is required to fix their own issues.

What Does It Mean To Hold Yourself Accountable?

Case in point. There is a particular student who wanted me to coach them. I even offered to do it for free. Not only did they blow off two sessions; one time, they only acknowledged it because they ran into me in class; the other time, they said absolutely nothing. Not only does this translate into them being someone who doesn’t value other people’s time, not only does it come off that their word is on the flaky side — as they’re in the process of wanting to coach other folks on how to get their own ish together, what it really says is they’re not very good at holding their own selves accountable.

I guess the silver lining in them being inconsiderate of my schedule/time and then not acknowledging it (chile) is they served as a teachable moment and the inspiration for this particular piece — ‘cause y’all, when I say that one of the most underrated causes of stagnation, evolution, and relational longevity are people who suck at holding their own selves accountable for their own words and actions? Because, at the end of the day, self-accountability is all about taking full responsibility for what you say and do without trying to put the blame on other people.

Yeah, let me get off of the vent and dive right on in…

How To Practice Holding Yourself Accountable 

Accountability Is a Sign of Self-Awareness


“To know yourself, you must sacrifice the illusion that you already do.” (Vironika Tugaleva)

Since accountability is one of those words that so many people regularly use, all the while assuming that everyone knows what it means, I figured the best way to approach this topic is to break down some of the traits of a truly accountable individual — and since there is no way to be accountable without being self-aware, let’s start there.

To be honest with you, self-awareness manifests itself in a myriad of ways:

  • Self-aware people know their strengths and weaknesses
  • Self-aware people are cognizant of how their energy and presence affect those around them
  • Self-aware people are able to express their emotions in a clear, concise, and mature way
  • Self-aware people are able to hear other folks out when it comes to their views and perspectives
  • Self-aware people have good boundariesand respect the boundaries of others
  • Self-aware people own their mistakes without making excuses, justifying, or deflecting
  • Self-aware people make apologies and accept them (because they know they need the same mercy that they bestow)
  • Self-aware people are mindful and remain in the present (because that’s all they can “control”)
  • Self-aware people know how to fight fair
  • Self-aware people respond rather than react (they process things and determine the most beneficial way to address matters before they speak)

Look here — I’m willing to bet some pretty good money that the number of folks who would immediately become more accountable would easily be in the thousands if they simply focused on what it means to be self-aware…first. That said, how self-aware are you? Be honest.

Accountability Is a Sign of Maturity


"Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values." (Joshua L. Liebman)

If you’ve been rocking with me, content-wise, for a while now, then you already know that one of my absolute favorite quotes is “Adulthood is surviving childhood.” And since there are plenty of studies to support that the age where a child is traumatized is oftentimes the emotional stage that they remain until they get some professional help, it actually makes a lot of sense why some adults act like big kids. That’s why, if there’s one thing that I enjoy about the truly great Black family channelBeleaf in Fatherhood, it’s that the parents show what it means to handle accountability in a mature way in spite of their kids sometimes handling matters immaturely — because they are well…kids.

That’s why it tickles me when the whole “What do you bring to the table?” conversation comes up, and folks will respond with, “I’ve got a place, a car, and I pay my own bills.” Umm, you mean you’re an adult? Not sure how many brownie points you should actually get for that once you reach adult age. And honestly, maturity should come with adulting as well. In fact, as you get older, maturity should be evolving in your life — that includes when it comes to personal accountability.

So, what does it mean to be a mature person? For starters, mature people can control their emotions; are not impulsive; do not need immediate gratification; are not self-centered; do not blame others for their own stuff; do not resort to pettiness, and do not make irresponsible decisions. When you process all of this, it’s easy to see why children need to be taught how to hold themselves accountable — it’s because they tend to not be very good at any of this. We, as grown-ass people, though? We absolutely should be.

Accountability Is a Sign of Humility


"True humility is being able to accept criticisms as graciously as we accept compliments." (Sabrina Newby)

This culture is hella backward. Although humility is actually a virtuous trait to have, society spends a lot of time trying to present it as some sort of weakness. And here’s the (main) problem with that: when you’re arrogant; overbearing; unteachable (can’t be told or corrected about anything); presumptuous; aggressive; smug, and self-centered — does that seem like someone who would do a good job at holding themselves accountable?

An extreme example of this would probably be the orange man, Donald Trump. His narcissism is so off-the-charts that, no matter how much evidence of his ridiculousness he’s presented with, he finds some way to skirt around it and not own it. That’s what egomania does: it makes you think that you’re too good to make mistakes and/or take on the consequences whenever you do — and that’s a very dangerous way to live your life.

Synonyms for humility include words like meek, unpretentious, and unassuming. When I think of those words, things like being flexible and correctable come to mind. And the beautiful thing about all of this, as it directly relates to personal accountability is, there’s no way that you can hold yourself responsible unless these qualities are not alive, well, and very active in you. Are they?

Accountability Is a Sign of Personal Responsibility


“The final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.” (Anne Frank)

There is someone in my family who, without even really asking me, had me pack up their things in storage and pay the bill for years. I mean, several years. Every time they would come to visit (they moved far away), I would say, “When are you going to send for your things?” and they would basically give me the Elmo shrug. That is, until the storage unit got robbed, I was out of literally thousands of dollars, and they had the nerve to get mad at me about it. Umm, if you had come to get your stuff, this wouldn’t have happened. Take some personal responsibility. Geeze.

Back when they could emotionally bully me, they could get away with that type of craziness. Not now, though. They aren’t good at personal responsibility, never really have been, and so some firm boundaries have been put into place — because individuals who don’t hold themselves responsible are gonna be a liability in your life, one way or another.

Just for the record, here are some signs of how responsible people get down: they respect other people’s time and resources; they organize their life in a way where it won’t “fall into” unnecessary drama and chaos; they plan ahead; they tell the truth; they keep their commitments and follow through on their obligations; they don’t just own mistakes, they seek to correct them; they’re not driven by emotion(s), and they stick to their values and standards, no matter what.

Yeah, a responsible person is a trustworthy individual. And that brings me to the next point.

Accountability Is a Sign of Being Trustworthy


“Being consistent in your behavior is a great way to build trust.” (Germany Kent)

The older (and prayerfully wiser) I become, the more consistency matters to me. Honestly, on a few levels, that’s always been the case because I grew up in a home that, in many ways, was pretty consistent about being inconsistent — and you can’t really trust people who move like that because you never really know what to expect at any given moment and time (which sucks for a child’s overall health and well-being if you happen to be a parent, by the way).

And here’s the thing about consistency — it’s not about being perfect or getting everything right all of the time. Consistency is about not being erratic in your behavior, meaning what you say, and living in a way that isn’t constantly in conflict. For instance, my friends know that I’m consistent about “Don’t ask me a question if you don’t want a pretty direct answer,” “Don’t expect me to be super available on the biblical Sabbath” and “I couldn’t care less about holidays yet my birthday? Yeah…show up.” This stuff never — and I mean, NEVER — changes, so they trust me to be this way when it comes to those specific topics.

On a grander scale, how does trustworthiness show up?

  • Trustworthy people are safe (including emotionally safe) to be around
  • Trustworthy people do not violate articulated boundaries
  • Trustworthy people don’t say one thing and do something else
  • Trustworthy people are honest with themselves and others
  • Trustworthy people are genuine; they don’t put on facades
  • Trustworthy people hold information in great confidence
  • Trustworthy people are considerate of other people’s feelings and needs

Trustworthy people are the ones you can call with a secret, in an emergency, or if you are in need because they have already displayed the kind of character that reveals how reliable they are — and there is no way that you can be a reliable person if you’re not someone who holds yourself accountable.

Accountability Is a Sign of Being Solutions-Oriented


A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” (Duke Ellington)

One more. Personally, something that drives me up the wall about people who don’t take accountability for the things that they say and/or do is they’re exhausting to be around. One of the reasons why is that when you don’t take accountability for mistakes, offenses, or inadvertent missteps, that can cause a domino effect of other issues or problems — and that’s a complete waste of time and energy.

This includes individuals who don’t apologize. When you know that you messed up, why not just own your ish so that the healing process can begin and everyone can move smoothly within the relationship? That’s how someone who doesn’t like a lot of stress and drama would operate. Yeah, and if your immediate response to that is, “I don’t really care how they feel about it” — well, it’s kind of another article for another time, yet not only is your pride a sign of emotional immaturity, but if you feel that apathetic towards other individuals, you’re not the safest individual to be around either (#sorrynotsorry).

Definitely, one of the best things about personal accountability is you like a drama-free existence which means that you’re as solutions-oriented as possible. And if that means choosing peace over being right all of the time (especially when you know that you’re not), focusing more on the future than the past, strengthening your areas of weakness so that you can break certain patterns and habits…so be it.

You’ll take the “hit” because the sooner you’re accountable, the sooner a solution is found, and life is all good. And that’s just what makes holding yourself accountable so great — it keeps you in a more consistent state of harmony and clarity. And that’s beyond bomb. Trust me.

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